Europe is known for being home to some of the most beautiful churches in the world, with stunning examples of various architectural styles gracing its cities. Whether you have a special religious connection or you just enjoy the beauty of these serene buildings, visiting a church or two is a favourite holiday activity for many.
If you are thinking about spending your vacation sailing luxuriously around the med on a cruise ship, you’ll have an amazing opportunity to see many of Europe’s stunning churches in the flesh. So, we’ve rounded up some of the most attractive and unique must-see churches from around the Mediterranean.
La Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain
When you think of spectacular churches, La Sagrada Família in Barcelona is likely one of the first that comes to mind. Catalan architect and visionary Antoni Gaudi began the ambitious project in 1882 and the building remains unfinished today, with construction still taking place. The architectural style of the church is innovative and unique, combining Gothic and Art-Nouveau to create an appearance that can’t be found anywhere else. People travel from all over the world to see it, considering it an architectural marvel. It is expected to be completed in 2026, a year which coincides with the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
Duomo, Orvieto, Italy
Construction of the Duomo began in 1290 and the magnificent final building blends Gothic and Romanesque styles to create a new, softer Gothic style sometimes called Italian Gothic. Built in polychrome marble and with a wonderful multi-coloured façade, this church is one that has to be seen in the flesh to be truly appreciated. The interior is almost as spectacular as the exterior, with beautiful frescos by Luca Signorelli and an abundance of other art.
Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy
The Cathedral of Santa Maria el Fiore was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century, although the façade remained unfinished until the 19th century. The changing architectural influences throughout the period of time it took to build can be seen in the final building. Differing window styles can be viewed, for example, where Francesco Talenti, who was master of the works in the mid 14th century, added an extension to the cathedral. The finished building is a spectacularly beautiful example of architectural artistry.
The Church of the Seven Martyrs, Sifnos, Greece
Unlike other grand churches on this list, the Church of the Seven Martyrs is a tiny and simple structure, but no less beautiful for it. The small chapel sits on the top of a rock islet in the island village of Kastro and is a much-photographed spot. A white building with a blue-domed roof, the church is the quintessential Greek chapel that many people picture when they visualise the Greek islands. You can only see the church from the outside, as it is usually closed except for pilgrims on special occasions and religious celebrations.
Seville Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain
Also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Sea, Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Completed in the early 16th century, the building was designed to be unbelievably beautiful. According to chronicles about the cathedral, when the plans were drawn up leading members of the church said: “Let us build a church so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it finished will think we are mad.” You can certainly see this ambition in the breath-taking grandeur of the finished building. Built on the site of the great Aljama Mosque, you can still see remaining parts of the old building in the cathedral, including the bell tower which was formerly the minaret.
The Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani, Paros, Greece
Considered to be one of the earliest Byzantine churches in Greece, the Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani was built sometime around the middle of the 4th century. Various reformations and additions have been made to the church in following centuries, including the addition of the dome. The name means ‘the church of one hundred doors’ and legend has it that only 99 doors are actually visible, with the final door set to appear when Constantinople once again becomes Greek.
St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy
One of the world’s most famous churches, St Peter’s Basilica is a spectacularly beautiful and imposing church, although not actually Rome’s cathedral. It was consecrated in 1626, after 120 years of construction, and is built on the site of an earlier 4th-century church that was commissioned by Emperor Constantine. The church contains three of Italy’s most celebrated works of art: Michelangelo’s Pietá, his spectacular dome, and Bernini’s 29-metre-high baldachin over the papal alter. There are few churches in the world that can hold a candle to this awe-inspiring building – a work of art in its own right.
Basilica of Saint Cecilia Cathedral, Albi, France
The Cathedral of Saint Cecilia is unique among the soaring marble and stone façades of European churches, as it is built from brick. It is, in fact, the largest brick building in the world and was originally designed as a fortress after the Albigensian Crusade. The large rounded buttresses have little resemblance to the Gothic architecture often associated with cathedrals, although features such as stone gargoyles were added during 19th-century restorations. In contrast to its sober exterior, the cathedral is ornately decorated inside and is home to some spectacular religious art.
If you would like to see some of Europe’s most beautiful churches for yourself, why not book one of Cruise1st UK’s amazing deals on a Mediterranean cruise? Browse the full collection online or call our friendly sales team on 0808 274 6777.